Top critical review
Reviewed in the United States on April 15, 2014
Ugh - you know when you’re reading a stinker when you keep checking the page count - ok, p.156 - and you think after a couple mins “I must be on p. 160 by now” and you check and you’re on p. 159. And there are another 120 pages to go. Yeah I gave up on this, but I’m still going to review it because damn this book for making me wade through 159 pages of crud!
It’s partly my fault as I didn’t care much for the first Gotham Central book and was happy to leave the rest of the series alone but then I heard the Joker story Soft Targets was super-good so picked up the second Gotham Central book hoping it was going to blow me away and… eeeeeeeh. It was just ok - at best.
Soft Targets is about the Joker setting up timed sniper rifles to take out city officials with nobody sure of who’s next or why. It reads a bit like some of the scenes in Christopher Nolan’s 2008 movie, The Dark Knight, in the way the killings spark fear in Gotham’s citizens and causes a mass panic as Joker taunts everyone that he’s going to kill every few hours, and so on.
The few scenes the Joker was in, including a couple cameos from Batman, were pretty good, but that was it - I was mostly bored with what little was happening on the page. One other good thing to note before I start complaining - the temp office worker’s role was ingenious. She explains that it’s her job to turn on the Bat Signal on the GCPD roof because if one of the officers did that it would mean they were conceding that Batman was real and their official position is that he’s an urban myth. That’s an amazing detail - hats off to Ed Brubaker for that sucker (I blame Greg Rucka’s contributions for most of the unreadable drivel)!
But my issues with Gotham Central remain the same as the first volume - the cast are a bunch of nobodies! Interchangeable cops talking cop-speak, moaning about paperwork and weak coffee and overtime and long hours and oh, god I don’t care! I can’t even point out certain characters because they all looked so unremarkable that I never remembered any of their names!
And the art by Greg Scott is shocking - there’s one scene where some detectives go to a woman’s house to tell her the friend she was with the night before has been murdered and her dialogue is the usual “oh my god, this is horrible, etc. charged with emotion stuff” yet her facial expression looks like she just had a great fart! Then in the next panel she looks blasé, and the next she looks mildly bored. It’s absolutely ridiculous how out of sync the art and the text is, at least in that story.
I’m not a fan of police procedurals so maybe that’s why I dislike Gotham Central so much but I know that I don’t want to read CSI: Gotham - those cop shows bore me to tears which is why I never watch them; the many crime novels that sell so well, I stay away from because I don’t care about the tedious ways investigators go about solving cases or how gruff and/or “gritty” their dialogue is.
If you like Joker stories (and who doesn’t?), Soft Targets is only ok - I couldn’t say it stood out all that much, especially as most of the time the focus is on bland police officers - and I wouldn’t go out of my way to read it.
Batman is interesting. Joker is interesting. Gotham’s police officers are not - and they make up 99% of this book. I gave up on this shortly after Soft Targets ended and Detective #1 and Detective #2 were investigating some weak homicide involving some no name victim and some no name killer and they were complaining about inter-departmental politics over who got promoted over who and blah blah blah. That was it. No more Gotham Central for me - ever!